Rude TSA Officer: What Are Your Rights?

Rude TSA Officer-What Are Your Rights

 

Recently We Had a Rude TSA Officer Experience, or rather my husband had one. We were at Philadelphia Airport's Terminal F, prior to an American Airlines flight, and while our boarding passes had TSA PreCheck on them thanks to our membership in Global Entry, there's no separate TSA PreCheck line. Instead, there was just a single long line and two baggage screening machines.

My husband went through, but inadvertently had left about a quarter cup of water in our reusable water bottle, which was flagged. He asked politely if it could be dumped out and if necessary the bottle re-screened, but the TSA Officer rudely demanded that he go to the very back of the very long line. Understandably, my husband was flabbergasted and said something to the effect of “But I'll miss my flight! Can't you just re-screen the bottle without my going to the back of the line?”

Unsurprisingly, the TSA Officer dug in and insisted that my husband go to the back of the long line. It was only thanks to the kindness of other passengers in the line, who overheard the dispute and many of whom allowed my husband to go in front of them, that he was able to get back to the front of the line relatively quickly to re-screen the empty water bottle, and just barely made our flight.

Because I wasn't in line with my husband at the time, having already cleared security separately ahead of him, even I was surprised at the instruction to go to the end of the line–it isn't something we've ever experienced in the many TSA screenings we've gone through at other airports, primarily JFK, but also SFO and LAX. Maybe we've just been lucky in the past, but the whole incident sounded needlessly rude and like a blatant power trip on the part of the inciting TSA Officer.

Now, in my husband's case he was time-pressed, so following the (unreasonable) instructions and appealing to the decency of fellow passengers seemed the right thing to do given the circumstances. But if he'd had more time, I would have recommended getting the name of the rude TSA Officer and also politely asking to speak to a Supervisory TSO (STSO). If that didn't yield satisfaction, escalate to a Transportation Security Manager; a TSM is always required to be on duty at the airport, regardless of what you may be told.

TSA Management Directive 1100.73-5 Employee Responsibilities and Code of Conduct Section 5.D.(3) states that TSA Officers are responsible for “Exercising courtesy and tact (whether on or off duty) in dealing with…the traveling public, even in the face of provocation.”

That certainly wasn't what my husband experienced, and had he had more time, I'd have recommended that he have complained to the STSO. In legal proceedings that have resulted in TSA Officer removal, taking the time to file a complaint immediately after the incident occurs has lent credibility to the passenger's account, vs. an email complaint sent later.

Still, if time doesn't permit filing a complaint in person at the time (keep a paper copy of it) you can ask for the name of the inciting TSA Officer and file a TSA complaint online.

So in sum, you always have the right to:

  • Get the name of the TSA Officer you wish to file a complaint against
  • Speak to a Supervisory TSO (STSO)
  • If the STSO discussion isn't satisfactory, you can ask to speak to a Transportation Security Manager (TSM)
  • Make a complaint at the airport by asking for a comment card, and receive a paper copy of the complaint you made
  • File a TSA complaint online
  • Request that the Airport police supervise the TSA's proposed invasive search of your person.

If you've encountered a rude and/or unreasonable TSA officer, did you complain?

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TSA Are A Waste
TSA Are A Waste
5 years ago

TLDR: TSA are power tripping wastes of space that need terminating.

Racist TSA agents
Racist TSA agents
5 years ago

I had unfortunately been subjected to discriminatory behavior by a TSA pre check agent. At the SFO airport, an Asian couple in front of me was denied entry into the TSA pre check line despite them showing their global entry cards. When my turn came up, I too was denied entry to the line despite showing my card (I’m also Asian). When I asked her why, another agent jumped in and kept repeating, “No TSA pre-check”. They giggled and mumbled something in Spanish and would not allow me through the TSA pre-check line. I pressed on stating my global entry… Read more »

Caren Jones
Caren Jones
1 year ago

You may be onto something I just filed a complaint today and yesterday because a Hispanic TSA agent who went too far in her pat down and in how I was treated, I called a law office today and filed an online complaint with the TSA. I will also call the representative for the area that the airport is located in. Since they encourage to reach out to your local representative, next I will file a complaint with the attorney general of my state. I’ve flown out of that airport a million times NC, GSO and never had an issue,… Read more »

Mandy Murar
Mandy Murar
2 years ago

I just went through TSA and my left leg always flags the X-ray machine to be searched due to history of cancer and a lot of surgeries. So I went through they said they had to search my left leg. I said ok but I had a lot of surgeries on that left behind my knee and it’s really sensitive so just please don’t grab it hard. The TSA officer a lady, said can I fucking speak first. I said yes but I just wanted to let you know about my leg. Then she screamed Someone else can search you.… Read more »

B Miller
B Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Mandy Murar

Good for you. These TSA “officers” are rude and inappropriate and I hope they keep getting sued so things will change.

Brenda Ausdran
Brenda Ausdran
1 year ago

I went through the TSA in Dallas Texas airport and I went through The X-ray machine and my crotch showed red so the TSA lady told me she was gonna have to pat my lower stomach and lower back down so I said ok and when she touched my lower stomach it tickled and made me move a tiny bit and she goes you keep moving so I am not going to continue and started yelling for a manager over and over. The manager came over and the tsa lady who patted me down told the manager that I kept… Read more »

Ali
Ali
1 year ago

Wow! We just had a similar experience in CLT. My husband’s carry-on got checked 3 times by the same officer for a Bluetooth speaker that is in fact allowed in a carry-on. The agent and supervisor both refused to provide me their names. We were also about to miss our flight.

Jamie
Jamie
8 months ago
Reply to  Ali

Wow…Just experienced the absolute worst case of Abuse from CLT I was literally assulted both verbally as well as physically but a woman who targeted me from moment 1 I made a joke that I got in the wrong line as I am a pre check but didnt want to walk to the other side of the airport i…was….laughing….as i put my shoes in a bin…my open purse in a bin..my tote bag in a bin…then Joann walked up…”Get those nasty shoes out of that bin people put food in there” ummm ok ( you can take food?)” your purse… Read more »

B Miller
B Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Jamie

Hire a lawyer. Surely you have a good witness.

B Miller
B Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Ali

Yeah that is why they get away with murder… we all know A LOT of them are rude and hateful, happens to our family on every flight (we are white and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a white TSA officer in Atlanta, Miami, or New York) so there is often a racial tension every time with at least one employee. But the problem is we are trying to catch a flight and don’t have time to sit around and argue with these people. It is clear that the majority of TSA employees hate their jobs and are… Read more »

Gordan
Gordan
10 months ago

Miami TSA agent bulging me because I’m republican. He was so rude and body pat checking me. That was unnecessary.

Nicole Yuhas
Nicole Yuhas
9 months ago

Hi, I’m at JFK American Airlines and I was accused of having something in my pockets – which I did not. A woman came and felt me up unnecessarily. The lead black TSA agent said if I complain she’s “going to take me outside. Or you can book a new flight?!” Excuse ME?!!! Why is this happening EVERY SINGLE TIME I come to JFK! I’m done with JFK & American Airlines! It’s happening every time I fly here. Please, I need to know that this doesn’t happen again. Please. I hate them. I’m calling the police once I’m home. This… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Nicole Yuhas
B Miller
B Miller
1 month ago
Reply to  Nicole Yuhas

They have cameras everywhere. They could handle it if they wanted to. File a complaint on the TSA website.

Sun
Sun
5 months ago

Big crowds and noises are overwhelming trigger confusion in me. The only thing that makes it worse is a TSA (agent?) bullying and yelling at me. My elderly aunt with severe rheumatoid arthritis has also encountered the same horrible treatment multiple times. The problem has become epidemic. They think they can treat everyone like cattle. Something needs to be done.